The most striking thing I came across during my student life in the Netherlands was when I had to postpone an exam because I hadn’t studied enough and I was afraid of passing the exam with a six grade. This was perceived by my Dutch friends as pure stupidity and nonsense. Having an eight or nine was not considered as necessary or even ‘exceptional’ by them. Most Dutch students were more than satisfied with a six grade, unlike most of the non-Dutch students who consider a six grade as a sign of failure.
One of the distinguishing features that you spot instantly when you interact with the Dutch community on a professional level is the lack of a competitive mentality and behaviour. On the contrary, the environment is remarkably relaxed. The most notable example is when most work activities stop at six o'clock and diminish at weekends. The rhythm of the surrounding environment can get extremely slow, sometimes to an extent that is very boring and frustrating and hence not motivating. Things can even get irritating, especially when you realize that being highly competitive or dynamic is not appreciated by the society. Missing the coffee breaks, for example, because you prioritize work duties is not appreciated or even accepted. In a country like Jordan, where I came from, individuals are raised up to be the best in all aspects to gain more social respect. If you ask any kid about their future career the answer will definitely be either medicine or engineering simply because the society respects certain positions more than others. Of course this results in more pressure on individuals to meet the high standards. It is different in Dutch society where you find people are satisfied about being adequately good but not necessarily the best.
You can appreciate this phenomenon in Dutch community if you analyse the underlying social and cultural causes. Eager competition is seen in societies where less social justice exists because if you are not competitive enough it will be difficult to survive, whereas in a country like the Netherlands all citizens can be assured of a sufficient life quality even if you are not working at all, and thus there is less motivation for competition. This also manifests itself through another social phenomenon: no hierarchy whatsoever exists in Dutch society. Not only this, but it also wipes out the necessity for a showing-off attitude which is more evident in other cultures where individuals tend to boast about their success and belongings because the society appreciates and admires the more competent individuals in terms of career position and wealth. This of course doesn't mean that there is no space for competitive people in Dutch society. Actually it is more enjoyable to be competitive in such a society because you are given the choice to be or not to be competitive and you can guarantee respect and acceptance whatever your choice is./Wasma Al-Husainy, PhD Department of Toxicology.